Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Biased BBC? You decide....

Below follows a transcript of BBC East Midlands current affairs programme, "Inside Out", first broadcast at 19:30 on 22 November 2010. It features an article on "The Madeleine Foundation"... or does it?

I will leave you to decide for yourselves - just how unbiased are the BBC?

(Many thanks to AnnaEsse of Missing Madeleine for the transcript.)

Opening words: Hello, tonight Inside Out is at Rothley in Leicestershire to ask, who are the Madeleine Foundation?

Voice over: The three year old’s parents say, they just add to their anguish.

Kate: There’s a certain group out there who...this is their job really...is to pick on a vulnerable family and I’m sure after us they’ll move onto another family.

Voice over: They’ve been described as a club for Sickos to distribute vile leaflets. Their members insist they’re only trying to discover what happened to Madeleine McCann, but the parents of the missing youngster say the so-called Madeleine Foundation is hindering the search for their daughter and adding to their anguish. Simon Hare has been investigating.

Simon Hare: Well, it’s a Saturday afternoon and most people are busy enjoying their weekend, but somewhere here in Nottingham a group of people have got together to discuss the Madeleine McCann case.
(cuts into Simon answering mobile phone...Hello, Simon...)

Simon Hare (voice over) : Secrecy surrounds what’s been billed as the annual conference of the self appointed Madeleine Foundation. They said I can attend, but I have to wait for news of the location. I’m told to make my way to a hotel with conference facilities, but this proves to be just the meeting place. I’m then taken to the real venue .... a room in this village hall in Nuttall.

A member takes some photos, including one of me. Chairman Grenville Green from Nottingham is also happy to be pictured and the organisations’ secretary and co-founder, Tony Bennett, is keen to promote his new book made up of selected extracts from the case files.

There were 19 people at the meeting and I was told that they’d come from all over the country and that one couple had even come from Northern France. Er, they didn’t want cameras to come in, but they did allow me to sit there and take notes, they discussed many aspects of the McCann case and they also sold me a copy of their new book (“The Madeleine McCann Case Files – Volume 1”)

But at the moment I still don’t feel I’m any nearer to understanding exactly what the Madeleine Foundation is about.

Cuts into an old interview: Well among those reporters was Simon Hare for East Midlands Today, he’s with us now from Portugal...(fades out)

Simon Hare: But I do know something about the Madeleine McCann case. I was part of the East Midlands Today team that covered the events in Portugal. I interviewed the McCanns in Praia da Luz.

Cuts into old footage of Kate McCann: It really does give you great strength really to see everybody in the village, you know, giving us their support and love and everything.

Simon Hare: 3 months later I was in Portamao when they were made official suspects.

Cuts into footage of Simon Hare at Portamao: The crowd of onlookers, hundreds of people turned out, many booed Kate McCann as she arrived here. (fades out)

Simon Hare: A development largely thanks to this man (shows footage of Goncalo Amaral arriving at the courts) the Portuguese detective, Goncalo Amaral. But he was taken off the case and in 2008, the McCanns had their suspect status removed.

Cuts into film footage of Kate McCann: We welcome the news today although it’s no cause for celebration ...(fades out)

Simon Hare: And won libel damages from some of the more lurid press coverage they’d received.
A year later, front page news of a different kind, thanks to the Madeleine Foundation.

Cuts into footage: people living in Madeleine McCanns home village say that they are sickened that they’re now being targeted by a campaign to reopen a case against her parents.

Male: A group claiming to want justice for Madeleine says it believes she wasn’t abducted. It’s been sending hundreds of leaflets around the area calling for support.

Simon Hare: It delivered a 150 leaflets to the homes in the McCanns own neighbourhood, repeating the now discredited Amaral theory that Madeleine had died in her parents holiday apartment and they’d covered it up.

Cuts into a female journalist holding a leaflet: And the people here in Rothley who spoke to us today say they’re horrified.

Man in street: It’s absolutely repugnant I think personally.

Woman in street: I just think it’s sad and sick that people have got nothing else better to do with their time.
(Note, the documentary failed to interview those from Rothley who thought the leaflet was informative and joined the Madeleine Foundation after searching out more details.)

Simon Hare: I would meet all of the four people who delivered the leaflets that day. Among them, Debbie Butler the Foundations former Chairman and co-founder who appeared on the BBC to justify their actions.
Cut into footage of Debbie Butler: It’s a Nationwide campaign, we need to put the leaflet into as many doors as possible ...(fades out)

Simon Hare: She’s since fallen out with Tony Bennett and is no longer a member of the Foundation, but she agreed to meet me near her home in Kent.

Debbie Butler: Mr Bennett decided that we would go to that area. I’d never been there, he’d been there before, I found out that he had been there before, erm, he knew where we were going, I drove, we had Grenville Green with us and Helene Davies, his wife. We visited the farm that Kate had taken the children to and had some lunch there. Mr Bennett leafleted there alone and instructed me to go and leaflet in the immediate area where the McCanns live, erm, which I did with Helene and then he told me I must leaflet their road, which I did...I was doing it with Helene but Helene...Helene’s legs just went to jelly and she wouldn’t do it, so I did. I didn’t leaflet their own home at all.

Simon Hare: Tony Bennett denies he told Debbie Butler what to do that day but both were subsequently pursued by the McCanns lawyers and in the November last year, Mr Bennett assured the High Court he wouldn’t distribute any more of the leaflets or he could lose £50,000 and even go to prison for contempt of court.

Cuts into BBC footage of Tony Bennett setting up placards “What really happened to Madeleine McCann” and handing out leaflets to members of the public as they passed.

Interesting the background song to this clip “I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care what the people may say about me...”

Simon Hare: But by this summer Tony Bennett was distributing a new leaflet. He’s come to Bristol to what’s billed as the Goncalo Amaral Awareness Day. He’s accompanied by another Madeleine Foundation member who’s a little camera shy.

Cuts into film footage of the member hiding behind a post. Simon joking tells her he’s going around this side of the pillar

Tony Bennett: People think we are representing the McCanns in some way....

Simon Hare: Doesn’t that worry you?

Tony Bennett: Erm, not really no because it’s a chance to explain to people erm what we’re about and that there is a big mystery at the heart of this.

Cuts into film clip of woman on the street: I wouldn’t dare say what I thought – Id’ be sued! (laughs)

Cuts into film clip an elderly couple

Tony Bennett: People will no doubt be reading that leaflet as they pass around the town. Not one person’s come back to me to complain at all and say this is outrageous

Simon Hare: But in the afternoon there are a number of hostile reactions

Cuts into film footage of a group of children (you’ll have to watch the video to get the gist of what the children are saying)

Cuts into film footage of a young male adult: I think it’s a bit disrespectful

Cuts into film footage of a woman on the street: I have a two year old daughter you know, if I’d, If I’d lost my daughter like that woman has I wouldn’t want to think someone was out saying that in the street.

Simon Hare: A few days later after hundreds of copies have been handed out, he (Tony Bennett) agrees to the McCanns lawyers’ demands not to distribute this latest leaflet.

They (the McCanns) didn’t want to talk to us about Tony Bennett’s campaign, but on the third anniversary of Madeleine’s disappearance, Kate and Gerry McCann seemed to allude to the Foundation.

GMTV presenter: You know to this day there are people convinced you had something to do with it, how on earth do you deal with that?

Kate: Well, erm...well I think it’s changed erm, certainly we don’t get the same level of criticism that we did and even then to be fair it was the minority really, I think most people...even if, you know, they don’t agree with...with..., you know, what we did, then they wouldn’t feel it right or fair to add to our suffering.

Gerry begins to talk: I think...

Kate cuts in: But having said that I think it’s just a small minority now and you know there’s a certain group there how, this is their job really, is to pick on a vulnerable family and I’m sure after us they’ll move onto another family.

Cuts into BBC footage of Tony Bennett.

Simon Hare: I think she meant you

Tony Bennett: Er, I didn’t hear that. I don’t know whether she meant us or not but erm we are focused on this particular case, I...my focused on the truth so are the members and supporters of the Madeleine Foundation exactly the same. I haven’t got any history of persuing any individuals

Simon Hare: Tony Bennett previously tried and failed to bring a private prosecution against the McCanns for child neglect.

In 2006 he attempted to mount a prosecution of Michael Barrymore in relation to the night Stuart Lubbock died at the TV entertainers’ home. Another high profile case at the centre of a media frenzy. Tony Bennett first came into prominence by taking direct action over the metrification of signs.

Tony Bennett: A lot of people don’t want to see metres and kilometres on our roadsigns

Simon Hare: A course which won a lot of support. He then began removing road signs to campaign for the introduction of old county boundaries

Tony Bennett: I think the majority of the public would like to see these signs ‘Welcome to Lancashire’ on the correct Lancashire boarder.

Simon Hare: Unlike some of his Madeleine Foundation colleagues, he appears to quite like the camera’s notoriety. Last year he could be clearly seen sat behind Gerry McCann as he gave evidence to a Parliamentary subcommittee on the Press and Privacy. Tony Bennett later posted on the internet:
“It was to send out a quiet message. We are looking over his shoulder, checking out what he and his team are saying. Watching.”

Tony Bennett: If it is certain she was abducted then we are (can’t work out what this word is) to their anguish

Simon Hare: And does, does that not bother you? I mean you’re a father, a grandfather.

Tony Bennett: Erm, I’m persuaded that there are still questions to be answered and, and er, as I say I’ve got to be careful what I say, but then I do question their version of events and whether in fact Madeleine was abducted as do many other people.

Simon Hare: but you don’t know what happened; I don’t know what happened...

Tony Bennett: No I don’t...

Simon Hare: And only those responsible truly know

Tony Bennett: I agree. I agree. We don’t know what happened so why can’t we say erm you know, why can’t we ... I mean after all if I’m making bad points, if we’re making points on our website er they can be challenged and refuted easily can’t they.

Simon Hare: The internet is awash with forums and message boards about Madeleine. Some of these sites have seen threats of violence made towards the McCanns and their family home here at Rothley. Inside Out understands that the police have become involved in the past. People who post on these forums describe themselves as ‘Pro’ and ‘Anti’ McCann. Those connected with the Madeleine Foundation have also been subject to threats.

Debbie Butler: Half past twelve one night my phone rang and er I was told I’d be stabbed in front of my son straight through my heart. I phoned the police...erm...I’ve had other threats

Cuts into footage of Tony Bennett with a Madeleine Foundation member walking through the streets.

Simon Hare: The Madeleine Foundation has come to London. They’re delivering more letters to both the Portuguese and British Governments.

Tony Bennett and three members stand outside 10 Downing Street for photos.

Tony Bennett: So what happens? We knock on the door and someone comes and receives it? Okay.

Simon Hare: The latest leaflet that they’d agreed to stop distributing has made a comeback.

Tony Bennett: Well we’ve had a rethink on that and we see no reason why we shouldn’t distribute it. We weren’t threatened with any libel action or anything like that. We erm, we took a decision three months ago not to distribute it but we’ve reconsidered and see no reason why shouldn’t distribute it, especially on Goncalo Amaral’s birthday.

Simon Hare: But in July the McCanns lawyers, Carter Ruck, had threatened to take Tony Bennett back to the High Court. They’re letter felt that the former solicitor had failed to grasp how libel laws work. And it said that they’d also pursue any other members of the Foundation who delivered the leaflets.

The two remaining Rothley leafleters didn’t go to London. Grenville Green and his wife Helene Davies-Green have stepped down from the Foundation Committee after she was described by the Sun as a ‘Sicko’ who distributes vile leaflets.

Cuts into BBC filming of Helene in the kitchen preparing wild mushrooms.

Simon Hare: She was back in the public eye when she stood as a UKIP candidate in the general election.

Helene Davies-Green: Apparently throwing out the odd insult isn’t breaking their code of conduct.
Cuts into film footage of Grenville Green in Portugal

Simon Hare: It’s an example of free speech that her husband doesn’t like. At the beginning of the year, Grenville Green went to Portugal to attend a court hearing about Goncalo Amaral’s controversial book (The Truth in the Lie)

Grenville Green talking to Sky cameras: Why am I here? It’s freedom of speech isn’t it. If someone has a difference of opinion to someone else er you shouldn’t have lots of money to close you down and shut you up and keep you quiet if you’ve got a difference of opinion, this is why we’re here. It’s freedom of speech; freedom of expression.

Film footage of Journalist asks Goncalo a question as he leaves the Portuguese courts: Is your book hurting the McCanns sir?

Goncalo speaks in Portuguese (presumably "pardon?")

Journalist repeats his question: Is your book hurting the McCanns?

Goncalo Amaral then says the words which have become a controversial subject of whether he swore or said something in his native tongue. Sky News correspondent, Martin Brunt, clears this mystery on his blog 'Life of Crime': “Fala com McCanns” which means “Ask the McCanns”.

Grenville Green: This man is a folk hero, a sort of modern day Robin Hood if you will. It’s like a David and Goliath fight. If something’s right, you know it’s right. If something’s wrong, you know it’s wrong.

Cuts into BBC filming of Tony Bennet: There are always going to be those who entirely believe the McCanns account and who regard me as evil and perverted for what I’m doing. On the other hand there are those who have got legitimate questions and fully support what we’re doing.

Cuts into film footage of McCanns posing for the cameras

Simon Hare: Earlier this month, the McCanns launched an online petition calling for an investigation into their daughter’s disappearance to be independently reviewed (Note: The McCanns have NOT requested an investigation into the disappearance of Madeleine; they merely want a review of the case.)

Cuts into video footage of Gerry and Kate McCann.

Gerry Mccann: there’s absolutely no evidence that Madeleine has been seriously harmed so without her we’ve got to believe we can still find her. Erm, it’s difficult, we know that and that’s why we’re asking for help, we need assistance and the authorities need to do more.

Cuts into film footage of Simon Hare: Last week the McCanns revealed that they are now writing their own book. In a statement on their website Kate McCann said “My reason for writing is simple, to give an account of the truth.” Just like that GMTV interview, I can’t help but feel that that was partly aimed at the Madeleine Foundation.

Now if this piece is really about the Madeleine Foundation, why does it include video clips of road signs, county boundaries and Michael Barrymore?

Why does it state that "Dr Amaral's theory" of accidental death and concealment of a corpse is "discredited", when in fact it is not the theory only of Dr Amaral but also of both the British and Portuguese police?

Why do most of the people interviewed first appear in a video clip from August 2009, when it could be argued that public feeling towards the McCanns was very different from what it is now?

Why did Simon Hare include the film of a member hiding behind a lamp post? If people don't want to appear in the film, surely that is their right?

But of course, this is the BBC East Midlands, and the facts can be changed for anyone. They even said so themselves.